Life’s One Sure Thing

The four-year-old swim class students, our grandaughter among them, perched on the edge of the swimming pool and gazed down at their instructor in the water. From the sidelines, I could imagine the conversation by what happened next.

 “Put your arms up and over your eyes.”

 The tykes obeyed.

 “Now make your body into a ball.”

 They obeyed that too.

 “Now ro-o-o-oll the ball into the pool!”

 One by one, the life-jacketed little ones plopped into the pool—all except our grandbean. She controlled that ball, after all, and there would be no tumbling in the water business, thank you very much.

 The instructor reached out to help, but the last student crouching stiffened, braced herself, and leaned away. The longer arms of the adult prevailed and rolled her in anyway. Splash!

 Most of us want to be in charge of our lives. Arranging our circumstances in ways that make us feel as though we’re in control is a human tendency—and a colossal human vulnerability.

 A writing colleague named Carmen Leal spent two years teaching school in a small Saharan village, where the daytime temperature often reached 130 degrees Farenheit. Her only privacy was a small mud and dung hut she called home. One sweltering afternoon, tired of African heat and adventure, she skipped school and stayed home with a good book. In her own words, here’s what happened next:

 “The lifespan of a mud and dung house is about five years. I learned that day that mine was five years old.

 “Someone had sent me some chocolate. It didn’t ship well and ended up a ball of reconstituted brown gunk. I stayed in bed reading and nibbling chocolate, naked as the day I was born.

“The first rain of the season came, noisier than a Kansas tornado. I don’t know how many gallons of rain rushed onto my mud roof that first hour but it was enough to collapse it.

 “So there I stood, naked, covered in mud and dung with an entire village rushing to see if the American woman survived the falling roof. I lived despite being naked in front of the village. Amazingly the heat didn’t bother me anymore that day!”

Carmen says that she realizes her mistake lay in foolishly believing she could control things. “I thought if I stayed in bed nothing bad could happen since I wasn’t going outside. Boy, was I wrong!”

Statistics report that on average, people endure major crises every five years—no matter how tightly they attempt to control things. Like Tabatha and Carmen, just when we think we’re the-boss-of-me, along comes something unexpected. No amount of resisting, planning, precaution, or insurance can keep us from getting dumped on, dunked, damaged, devastated even demolished.  

Writer and speaker Sheila Wray Gregoire toured the recently tornado-devastated area of Tuscaloosa, Alabama. One of her photos shows her standing by a fragment of a destroyed wall featuring a red spray-painted message reading: We praise you in this storm.

Someone remembered the only constant in life: God, who remains faithful and trustworthy, even in life’s nastiest surprises. (Here’s Sheila’s inspiring account of her Tuscaloosa visit.)


When it looked as though hope was crashing, God had a surprise in store for Canadian Murray Dueck. Watch his story here: